For the first time, researchers have disabled a gene in human embryos to learn about its function.
Using molecular scissors called CRISPR/Cas9, researchers made crippling cuts in the OCT4 gene, Kathy Niakan and colleagues report September 20 in Nature. The edits revealed a surprising role for the gene in the development of the placenta.
Researchers commonly delete and disable genes...
Letters to the Editor
Spritely voyage09/20/2017 - 13:00 Astronomy, Anthropology
Engineers recently launched prototypes of miniature spacecraft. The prototypes, each a single circuit board, include solar panels, radios, thermometers and gyroscopes, Maria Temming reported in “These chip-sized spacecraft are the smallest space probes yet” (SN: 9/2/17, p. 5).
“Does the gyroscope actually stabilize the chip, or just provide information that can be signaled...
When Donald Griffin and Robert Galambos first reported that bats use the ricocheting echoes of sound waves to pilot through the environment, some scientists doubted it was possible. The team’s experiments, conducted in the late 1930s at Harvard University and reported in the early 1940s, coincided with World War II and the proliferation of active sonar systems for use on ships and submarines...
The Science Life
Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers on the market are intentionally brewed with yeast scavenged from nature, rather than the carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast used in most commercial beers.
Matthew Bochman is in on the action. By day, he’s a biochemist at Indiana University Bloomington who studies how cells keep their DNA intact. On the side, he can be found...
Reviews & Previews
Big ChickenMaryn McKennaNational Geographic, $27
Journalist Maryn McKenna opens Big Chicken by teasing our taste buds with a description of the succulent roasted chickens she bought at an open-air market in Paris. The birds tasted nothing like the bland, uniform chicken offered at U.S. grocery stores. This meat had an earthy, lush, animal flavor. From this tantalizing oh-so-European...
Viking warriors have a historical reputation as tough guys, with an emphasis on testosterone. But scientists now say that DNA has unveiled a Viking warrior woman who was previously found in a roughly 1,000-year-old grave in Sweden. Until now, many researchers assumed that “she” was a “he” buried with a set of weapons and related paraphernalia worthy of a high-ranking military officer.
Science & the Public
Every day, it seems like there’s a new natural disaster in the headlines. Hurricane Harvey inundates Texas. Hurricane Irma plows through the Caribbean and the U.S. south, and Jose is hot on its heels. A deadly 8.1-magnitude earthquake rocks Mexico. Wildfires blanket the western United States in choking smoke.
While gripping tales of loss and heroism rightly fill the news, another story...
Here’s some heartbreaking news for people pinning their hopes on online matchmaking sites: It’s virtually impossible to forecast a love connection.
Maybe that’s not so shocking to survivors of the dating wars. But now science is weighing in. Extensive background data on two individuals — comparable to that collected by digital dating services — can’t predict whether that pair will...
In the Twitterverse, science can stir up some vigorous debates. And they’re not all about the standard issues of climate change, vaccines and evolution. Some dueling tweets involve the scientific enterprise itself.
For instance, one recent tweet proclaimed “Science isn’t ‘self-correcting.’ Science is broken,” linking to a commentary about the well-documented problem that many scientific...
Letters to the Editor
Going rogue09/06/2017 - 13:30 Planetary Science, Exoplanets, Anthropology
Astronomers estimate that wandering Jupiter-mass planets without a parent star are about a tenth as common as once believed, Ashley Yeager reported in “Giant solo planets are in limited supply” (SN: 8/19/17, p. 10).
Online reader Brian Bixby wondered how often such a rogue planet would come close to our solar system and proposed that one near the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud...